Madeleine Roth's Proposal School Shootings/Mental Health/Gun Control

Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Senate Bill 584 (S-1) would amend provisions of the handgun licensure law that prohibit carrying a concealed pistol on certain premises (commonly called no-carry zones) and exempt certain people from the prohibition, to expand the exemptions and to prohibit a person licensed to carry a concealed pistol from openly carrying it in a no-carry zone, subject to several exceptions.

The Michigan Senate passed legislation that may increase the possibility for gun violence-related tragedies to occur at schools. Bill 584 allows licensed gun owners to carry concealed handguns inside schools, churches, day care centers, stadiums, churches, college dorms, bars and other traditionally gun-free zones. The rationale behind the bill is that as incidents of school shooting are increasing and rampant, “anybody who wants to exercise their right to protect themselves and have a firearm should be able to do that where they need to” according to Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof. former teacher Sen. Jim Ananich of Flint, Michigan wrote that Bill 584 “is not helping me”, it is “hindering my ability to educate those children". Senator Curtis Hertel of East Lansing wrote that Bill 584 increases the threat of falling victim to gun violence for students, families, faculty and staff. School shootings are public health issue that affects the lives of students of all ages across Michigan. Moreover, the illicit link between gun violence/school shootings and mentally ill perpetrators is damaging to the already marginalized group associated with mental illness.

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

Every resident of the state of Michigan and the US is affected by gun violence, either directly or indirectly. Whether someone is a primary victim of gun violence, a firsthand witness of gun violence, or someone who only reads about gun violence in the news. Everybody can agree that gun violence is a growing cause for concern and an imminent threat. Students, teachers, parents, employees, visitors and other members of the community who frequent schoolgrounds in Michigan and all over America are at risk of falling victim to gun violence. This unfortunate circumstance must be reversed to protect the interests of these individuals, their families and the community.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

The past 10 years of American history have been fraught with gun violence. From drive by shootings to mass murders, American citizens, and citizens of the world can hardly go a few weeks without reading or experiencing another tragedy. Each tragedy is met with a cry of outrage from citizens, but the government has been deadlocked in its progress on gun reform.

On February 22nd, 2018, President Trump tweeted about the possibility of implementing “highly trained, gun adept” teachers in schools because armed teachers may be able to prevent casualties from happening in the interim prior to the arrival of first responders. Trump argues that a school with no guns is a “target” for attacks, and if schools had specially trained teachers bearing a firearm, no one would ever think to attack them (Schallhorn, 2018). Trump, however, refers to a hypothetical shooter as a “sicko,” which marginalizes an already underrepresented minority; he tweets: “[teachers would then] be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions” (Schallhorn, 2018). The result of the classification of potential shooters as “sickos,” mentally ill individuals are publically stereotyped as being dangerous and threatening to our society. Additionally, this scapegoating shifts the focus from developing other preventative measures, both related and unrelated to issues of mental illness in America, that play a role into America’s and Michigan’s gun violence rates.

Nikolas Cruz, also known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter in Florida, is said to have a history of mental illness. Cruz was in possession of an AR-15, which he had obtained legally, despite having a history of mental illness. Cruz was able to legally get his hands on a deadly assault weapon with his record of mental health issues. In reference to this tragedy, House Speaker Paul Ryan highlights that, “mental health is often a big problem underlying these tragedies” (Qiu et al., 2018). In other words, Paul Ryan and other politicians are stating that mental health is the primary issue when it comes to gun violence in the United States. In reality, it appears the bigger issue is the government legally allowing firearm distributors to supply guns to individuals who are not equipped to deal with the consequences of their actions. Accusing the mentally ill for the dreaded effects of firearms is not only unjust, but also incorrect.

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Speaking with School Social Worker Greta Furlong of Ypsilanti Community High School lent unparalleled insight on the impact that a tragedy such as a school shooting can be to a community. However, stepping first-hand into a school environment truly inspired the passion in me to advocate for this cause. Numerous demonstrations of protest against gun violence, school shootings and the legislation that may enable these tragedies are occurring during the duration of my service learning. Associating the inspiring individuals, including students, teachers, and support staff that I had the privilege of meeting with this worth-while pursuit lends me a unique perspective. 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Infographic: School Shootings

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Cheryl Mazlen, Wellness counselor at NYU addressed the issue of gun violence in schools and its correlation to mental healthy from a sociological perspective, viewing the issue through a cultural lens. She opines that in reality, the government needs to tackle the roots beneath this issue: the factors that play into the reasons individuals turn to gun violence. Human beings have tendencies to act abnormally in desperate times. These circumstances stem from uncontrollable factors like poverty, lack of resources and social support, and exposure to trauma. It is human nature to act out in an extreme time of need. It is not so much that mentally ill individuals are committing crimes, but change is required to prevent major health disparities from occurring. Mental illness can be considered an explanatory variable, but not necessarily the main cause to overall gun violence. One of the main causes though, is class, and is a socioeconomic issue.

CONSULTATION 2: Greta Furlong, School Social worker at Ypsilanti Community High Schools addressed the proposed solution of arming teachers in schools as ineffective, unnecessary, dangerous, and threatening to the mental health and general wellbeing of the inhabitant of the school. She said that the proposal of arming teachers and school officials was met with criticism on the grounds that it would instill widespread fear and negativity within the school. She summarized the opinions of her colleagues and students, adding that opinions on the matter were generally that the YCHS community would have a lower sense of safety and security if this policy is implemented.

CONSULTATION 3: John Doe (name changed to ensure confidentiality and anonymity) of the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Saline, Michigan spoke with me about the negative effects of stigmatizing the already marginalized group of individuals suffering from mental illness. The community of individuals suffering from mental illness remains a disadvantaged group that must be advocated for. These individuals are marginalized and stigmatized. This disenables them from finding and keeping housing and jobs, as they face widespread discrimination. The problem is that the government is not adequately preventing gun violence as its own genre, with mental health set aside, by handling the issue of gun control.

Prospectus:

A professor of Social Welfare at UCLA discusses how gun ownership in the U.S. is rising; more than 300 million U.S. citizens own a gun, and in 2014, death rates from gun violence averaged 200 gun deaths per day (Dunseith, 2017). The false associations between gun violence and mental illness propagated by the Trump administration are tremendously devastating to the mentally ill community in Michigan. Gun violence is a dangerous issue in the state of Michigan and the entire nation. Following the report of each disturbing incident of gun violence, some lawmakers and interest groups are quick to proliferate the notion that gun violence is linked to mental illness. These associations threaten an already marginalized group by stigmatizing all people living with mental illness as dangerous. The medical community has expressed frustration in response to the erroneous link between gun violence and mental illness. Dr. Louis Kraus, forensic psychiatry chief at Chicago’s Rush University Medical College denounced the legitimacy of this link, writing “the concept that mental illness is a precursor to violent behavior is nonsense,” and “the vast majority of gun violence is not attributable to mental illness.” According to “Gun Violence and Mental Illness”, published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2016, “mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent 1% of all gun homicides each year”. Clearly, scapegoating the mentally ill community is not only unfair, it is incorrect and is an inefficient way of addressing the issue. In order to limit and prevent the adverse consequences of gun violence and further stigmatization of people living with mental illness, the state of Michigan must take action to effectively implement gun control legislation. Experts have suggested that a more effective approach to gun control might include measures such as banning assault weapons, barring sales to convicted violent criminals and conducting more thorough background checks. Michigan must implement laws and restrictions on gun ownership and accessibility in order to mitigate the negative effects of these complex but preventable tragedies.

Considering recent violent events such as the 2013 Newtown school shooting, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, and the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, much of the policies that have been enacted are predicated on the prevention of mentally ill individual’s obtaining guns. Because of the strong social outcry for policy changes following these incidents, it is easy to understand why the government would implement these sorts of changes. However, these laws have the potential to reap adverse consequences such as “deterring people with mental health problems from seeking care voluntarily and reinforcing stigmas associated with mental illness” (Swanson et al., 2013 p. 367).

Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: Mandatory mental health education: Implement policies to carry out measures to ensure safety and prevent harm on school grounds. Implement mental health education into the curriculum of all K-12 schools in Michigan to increase awareness of the issues faced by the community struggling with mental illness and preparing students to recognize signs of serious mental disturbances in peers (i.e. depression, suicidal ideology, etc). This education should be mandatory, regardless of if a community is affected by school shootings/gun control. 

SOLUTION 2: Gun control:  statewide banning of assault weapons and bump stock sales, the barring sales to convicted violent criminals and conducting more thorough background checks before authorizing the sale of a gun.

SOLUTION 3: School Shootings: promote awareness and educate the population about the cultural issues surrounding school shootings that are a product of American society today. Continue the conversation and dialogue including everybody's opinions on the frequency and individual instances of school shootings and analyze how they are a product of our culture. Agree that the common denominator is that school shootings should be prevented by any means possible to minimize the loss of innocent lives and bring peace of mind to the students of Michigan. Change our culture and the attitudes of members of our society to end school shootings. 

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Topic coordinator Ben Heller helped me in narrowing down my proposal from when it was more broadly revolving around reducing gun violence to a more narrow focus on school shootings.

Topic coordinator Lizzy Stone then aided me in incorporating my shift in focus onto the effect of the gun control conversation being correlated with issues of public mental health. We agreed that there are some valid points to be made on the side advocating for the already marginalized group of individuals suffering from issues of mental health in the community. This issue affects all students in the state of Michigan, and their safety is the main priority, as this conversation becomes more relevant with every tragic incident of gun violence. Real, implementable solutions will address the underlying, systemic, cultural causes of gun violence in Michigan and America broadly, while issues of gun violence do not threaten the populations of other countries in the same way whatsoever.

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

My research process involved reading numerous articles, reviewing current and past, prospective and actual bills and laws, court cases, scholarly articles, psychological research, live interviews via phone and email with a wellness counselor from NYU, a school social worker from Ypsilanti, Michigan, and a staff member of the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Saline Michigan, in addition to feedback from topic coordinators Lizzy Stone, Ben Heller and MSC instructor Jay McDowell. 

===FORMAL PROPOSAL===

The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... It would be naive to end the investigation of the reasons that contribute to Michigan and America’s gun violence problems only by funding mental health services (Beck, 2016).

WHEREAS.... Firearms are readily accessible but the federal government and the State of Michigan both have strict criminal laws related to firearms which require mandatory prison sentences, increasing the crime rate and prison population of individuals related to perpetrating gun violence.

(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1. Increase efforts spent analyzing the regulations for gun ownerships. Although funding mental health care may prevent crimes from being committed by individuals suffering from mental illness, there is evidence that shows that the many of these crimes have been attributed to individuals without a history of mental illness.  

2. Gun accessibility should be reduced such that fewer crimes involving gun violence are enabled to occur in the state of Michigan.

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. Many Americans and residents of Michigan support the Second Amendment Right to gun ownership. These protections are afforded to people and speak to their right to protect themselves, deter crime and engage in self-defense practices.  

2. Although the simple solution to gun violence seems to disenable gun ownership, those who feel a strong need to own guns will eventually get their hands on one whether or not it is obtained legally. That is why it is important to limit blaming gun violence on the mentally ill, or, and rather, investigate the underlying issues that cause individuals to need guns in the first place. So not only are politicians reckless for accusing a certain part of the country’s population as the main source to deaths caused by gun violence, but it appears as if they are looking for a short-cut, by blaming the mentally ill, and by funding programs to assist mentally ill individuals (Schallhorn, 2018).

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

It is difficult to quantify the direct expenses associated with a shift in focus from the mentally ill community as perpetrators of gun violence to a focus on increased mental health care and screening, more thorough and extensive background checks and waiting periods for gun licensing, purchasing, distributing and carrying (and bump stocks). This process will be expensive, but many taxpayers will feel that their money is well-spent in proctecting the students of Michigan. This process will also create jobs analyzing the databases required for gun ownership and tracking. It is quite possible that in the long run, these implemented policies could save the government money. Increased mental healthcare increases physical health and decreases the cost of treating victims of violence. Non-monetary costs include the time spent by legislators, school and government officials, and members of the psychological science research community on addressing and attemping to reduce the incidence school shooting. Lost economic opportunity would generally occur among the gun industry. The NRA is the most prominent competing interest on the subject because they lobby tremendous amounts of money to politicians in order to protect people's second ammendment rights and their own profits. 

References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue

Barkan, S. E., & Rocque, M. (2018). Socioeconomic Status and Racism as Fundamental Causes of Street Criminality. Critical Criminology. doi:10.1007/s10612-018-9387-x

Barry, C. L., Mcginty, E. E., Vernick, J. S., & Webster, D. W. (2013). After Newtown — Public Opinion on Gun Policy and Mental Illness. New England Journal of Medicine, 368(12), 1077-1081. doi:10.1056/nejmp1300512

Barry, C., Ph. D, McGinty, E., M.S., Vernick, J., & Webster, D., Sc.D. (2013, March 21). After Newtown - Public Opinion on Gun Policy and Mental Illness | NEJM. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from http://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMp1300512

Beck, J. (2016, June 07). Untangling Gun Violence from Mental Illness. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/06/untangling-gun-violence- from-mental-illness/485906/

Dunseith, L. (2017, July 05). The Connection Between Poverty, Inequality and Firearm Violence. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://luskin.ucla.edu/connection-poverty- inequality-firearm-violence/

Ingoldsby, E. M., Shaw, D. S., Winslow, E., Schonberg, M., Gilliom, M., & Criss, M. M. (2006). Neighborhood Disadvantage, Parent–Child Conflict, Neighborhood Peer

Relationships, and Early Antisocial Behavior Problem Trajectories. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology,34(3), 293-309. doi:10.1007/s10802-006-9026-y

Qiu, L., & Bank, J. (2018, February 16). Checking Facts and Falsehoods About Gun Violence and Mental Illness After Parkland Shooting. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/us/politics/fact-check-parkland-gun-violence- mental-illness.html

Schallhorn, K. (2018, March 15). Gun control measures proposed by Trump, lawmakers after Florida school shooting. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/03/09/gun-control-measures-proposed-by-trump- lawmakers-after-florida-school-shooting.html

Shaw, D. S., Winslow, E. B., Owens, E. B., Vondra, J. I., Cohn, J. F., & Bell, R. Q. (1998). The development of early externalizing problems among children from low-income families: A transformational perspective. Journal of abnormal child psychology. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 26(2), 95-107. doi:10.1023/a:1022665704584

Swanson, J., McGinty, E., Fazel, S., & Mays, V. (2014, April 29). Mental illness and reduction of gun violence and suicide: Bringing epidemiologic research to policy. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1047279714001471

Taylor, K. (2018, February 15). Here's how easy it is to legally buy a semiautomatic gun in the US. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-buy-a-gun- 2017-10

 

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/trump-said-mental-illness-leads-to-gun-violence-heres-why-doctors-disagree

https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/pdf/10.5555/appi.books.9781615371099

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/us/politics/fact-check-parkland-gun-violence-mental-illness.html

https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/opinion/contributors/viewpoints/2018/03/08/sheehan-stop-using-mental-illness-scapegoat-face-real-causes-gun-violence/404356002/

http://www.bridgemi.com/public-sector/where-michigan-governor-candidates-stand-red-flag-gun-bills

http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/possession-of-a-firearm-by-the-mentally-ill.aspx

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/01/michigan-gun-control-boards-law-eliminated

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Total votes: 30

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